We talk with Michael Nobes, Founder of Six Bridges Capital, in New York. Six Bridges is an industry agnostic investment firm. From medtech in Africa to diversion of waste to landfills in the US.They work with various types of investments at various stages. In this episode we learn about alternative financing, advice he would give to individual investors, as well as his projection of trends during COVID-19.

Having the alignment of values (with your portfolio companies) makes it easier to hang in during the tough times, this is critical piece for investors.

Michael Nobes, Founder

Transcript of Interview with Michael Nobes

Jenelle:
Hello, thank you for speaking with us today, Michael.

Michael Nobes:
Thanks very much for having me.

Jenelle:
Today, we have with us Michael Nobes, CEO of Six Bridges Capital. You can find out more about Six Bridges Capital at sixbridges-capital.com. Michael, can you tell us a bit about six Bridges, it’s mission and why you founded it?

Michael Nobes:
Yes, sure. So we’re a boutique financial services and advisory firm. We’re based in New York. So one of the areas of focus that we have which I think is relevant for the discussion that we’re having is particularly on early stage companies, although we do some middle market transactions and we also work with a VC and private equity funds as well. So typically the partnerships that we have are focused on business development, capital raising. We work with companies to formulate their strategy around product development, go to market and we use our network to access capital and subject matter experts for our clients. I would say really industry agnostic by and large, but being based in New York, there is a bias towards companies in the tech sector, consumer health and some crop tech as well. With regards to on the early stage with regards to the stage that we normally get involved in, I would say it’s from seed onwards, although we do have limited exposure to companies that are sort of like proof of concept and that’s about it.

Jenelle:
And can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to found Six Bridges?

Michael Nobes:
Yes, so interesting story. So if I worked on a thing, we’ll touch on that a little bit later. If it’s sort of traditional finance and in various different locations in Europe and in North America. And when I left RBC and I started Six Bridges working just generally working with founders setting aside the impact part of working with them. I mean, that’s hugely rewarding as it is working with founders for early stage companies. But then when you couple that with the fact that you really making it, working with people that are making an impact to people’s lives, whether it’s in diversity inclusion, social access to financing, then you know, it’s doubly rewarding to see an early stage company get some traction, get out there in the market and make a real impact to people’s lives.

Jenelle:
You use and as does your website use terms like alternative financing and investments? Can you break this down for our audience?

Michael Nobes:
Yes, sure. So I’ll try and get rid of all the acronyms and everything just so that people can actually understand what we deem as being the alternative finance world. So working we, with the early stage companies or VCs, it’s really about access to private capital. So that that private capital essentially falls into various different buckets. We have the traditional venture capital funds who are making allocations and investments into impact companies. We then have a group of clients who are family offices. So these could be a single family office. So in other words, a family that either sold their business and is actually managing the money from the sale of that business or whether it’s what they term as a multifamily office, which would be an organization that’s managing money for multiple families. And really they, the multifamily office are essentially like many wealth managers. And then we deal with ultra high net worth/angels who are looking for early stage investments and then further on up the ladder, we deal with endowments and philanthropic organizations as well. So that bracket is really traditionally really mission-driven organizations that have a real social impact traditionally at their core and they will be focused very much on a particular area, whether it’s housing or the access to clean water, that sort of thing.

Jenelle:
It’s really interesting that you’ve worked across so many different service options for financing and investments and different types of clients. Can you provide us with a stat or a metric that you believe highlights the impact that Six Bridges has had while working with some of your clients?

Michael Nobes:
Yes, so the diversity of our clients actually is great and that really helps us with regards to to helping early stage companies when they come to us because it gives us a pool of resources and people to be able to address the challenges that the early stage companies have, whether it’s just financial or whether it’s growing their network, getting access to opportunities. But at the same time that diversity of clients can be a bit challenging with regards to metrics. But I just sort of highlight two particular companies that we’ve worked with so that the listeners can get sort of a sense of the the impact that we have.

Michael Nobes:
So we have a client that’s a med tech company in Europe and they have a self-diagnosis app that you just download onto your phone. You put in the symptoms that you have and it gives you a self-diagnosis of potentially what could actually be wrong with you. So their focus is not on the traditional mature markets, they’re actually rolling their their application out in Europe. So they have 20,000 people on their platform in Africa, in the first two countries that they targeted who traditionally would not have access to health or it would be challenging for them or just wouldn’t have an ability to easily get to a doctor. So simply by downloading the app and onto the phone and just for as an aside, the actual digital penetration within Africa is increasing significantly. So they’re sort of trying to use that tailwind to be able to give people access to their technology, which means that it’s going to improve people’s lives because they were able to self diagnose themselves by and large, and they know whether it’s just a cold that they’ve got or whether it’s something more serious and they should actually go to a doctor. So there’s 20,000 people on that platform at the moment.

Michael Nobes:
One other example is we work with a company that’s a zero waste event services company. They’re actually in the floral industry and they essentially take flowers from advance, so a wedding or some sort of corporate conference and they re-purpose them, they divert the flowers from, they’re actually diverted from landfills. They re-purposed the floral into smaller bouquets. So they diverted just under 200,000 pounds of floral waste from landfills and they actually re-purpose those flowers and it’s 50,000 individual bouquets that have been re-purposed and delivered to, arrangements that have been delivered to what they term as persons in need. So they would be people that are in some sort of hospice, cancer patients, hospitals; organizations like that.

Jenelle:
Wow, 200,000 pounds diverted. That’s an impressive amount and same with the 20,000 and people who are able to access medical services. Those are some really neat stories. When you’re looking at it from the investor side and the work that you do with them, say you had individuals who were interested in investing responsibly, what advice would you give for those individuals?

Michael Nobes:
That’s a great question and it’s one that does come up on a fairly regular basis. So I think the starting point that I would have for anybody that’s looking at actually wanting to get involved in impact investing is that they should really look to align their values of what they’re looking to achieve with what the company is actually doing. And that’s for a number of reasons, obviously to make sure that they’re actually supporting causes that are close to their heart, but also it’s not, early stage companies just across the board, whether it’s an early stage company that’s not involved in impact or a company that is, they face a tremendous amount of challenges as it is just getting that company up and running and getting access to capital and traction in the market and getting the word out. So they invariably hit some speed bumps, which things don’t go according to plan. So having that alignment of values makes it that much more easier to sort of hang in the tough times. So I think that’s a critical piece for investors. And it also brings, there’s obviously if they can bring some additional just not capital, but access to network and resources to the table to help those companies, that’s really important for them as well.

Jenelle:
That’s really good advice to ensure that the impact certainly reaches both scale and as much potential as possible. As we’re planning the next year what are some trends within the impact investing space that you’ve been watching and that you think that we should keep our eyes on as well?

Michael Nobes:
A huge amount of trends that are out there, and I think just being very topical given the environment that we’re in at the moment with the COVID 19 pandemic, I think you’re really going to see some trends that are going to come out of there and not that are driven by what we as a society and globally are going through at the moment. So just one quick example on that is, I have a client they have a digital behavioral health platform. So they had no inkling with regards to COVID 19. It wasn’t in their business plan, but just with the stressors and the anxiety that the pandemic is driving just in the general population, they’re seeing a huge amount of demand for their actual online services now and I think we’re going to see a lot of changes and focus just driven out of what we are going through at the moment. And I think sort of things like that that are, initially looking at the company, it’s a behavioral health mental health platform, but their services are really in demand now, driven by external events. And I think we’re going to see a lot more companies like that that are gonna start up to try and address the root cause of what we’re going through at the moment and also the ancillary impacts that are going to come from that.

Jenelle:
That’s really insightful and certainly we’ve started to see a lot of companies start to advance within mental health services as well as companies that are working within biomed to address this specific external event. But you’re quite right when there are social and economic issues large challenges globally, I do anticipate that we’ll continue to see impact investment dollars follow those trends that have both need and crises urgency for sure.

Michael Nobes:
Yes, I a hundred percent agree with you and I think it will become more and I hate using this term, but it will become more mainstream which is I think is good from the raising of the profile of impact investing. And that’s only going to drive the actual sector and I think it’s going to attract more people into it and it’s also going to drive more innovation from founders.

Jenelle:
I couldn’t agree more with you. The more challenges we see, the more money we’ll see being spent on them and hopefully create opportunities and innovations coming out of them too. Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Michael, and to our audience, it was a pleasure.

Michael Nobes:
Yes, that’s great. Thanks very much for hosting me and it’s been great and look forward to to continue to work together..

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